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Guinea (Conakry): Developing botanical capacity, a National Herbarium and Red Data book

Project to develop botanical capacity, a National Herbarium and a Red Data book of the plants of Guinea (Conakry).

Guinea (Conakry), on the edge of the Upper Guinea forest area, has the most extensive and geologically diverse upland area in W Africa, W of the Cameroon Highlands. Of these Guinea Highlands, both the Fouta Djalon and Mt Nimba are well known for numerous narrow endemic species, such as Pitcairnia feliciana at Fouta, the only Bromeliaceae native outside the neotropics. Guinea (Conakry) has had no functioning herbarium and until 2009, had no national Flora. 

A major focus of RBG Kew's work in Guinea (Conakry) is to facilitate the setting-up of a National Herbarium and to build the capacity of botanists in the country.  Currently there are no plant taxonomists at doctoral level, and the capacity to identify wild plant species needs building.

Key objectives are:

  1. to increase capacity through training
  2. to develop a Red Data book for the Plants of Guinea
  3. to stock the herbarium with thousands of authoritatively named Guinea specimens which can function as a reference for future accurate plant identifications in Guinea.

Kew's work in Guinea (Conakry) is funded principally by a partnership with Rio Tinto, which is seeking permission to extract iron ore from the Simandou Range in Forestiere Province.  In 2005 we began to conduct a botanical inventory and vegetation mapping exercise in one part of the range.  This work is aimed at identifying plant species and habitats of conservation importance so as to enable Rio Tinto to minimise the environmental damage that may occur when the mine is set up.  The output of the first phase of the Simandou work was first draft vegetation map for the Pic de Fon area produced in June 2006, with a botanical inventory to follow in July.  The survey area was extended to other parts of the Guinea highlands in 2007 partly to inform selection of offset area(s).  Much of the survey work is now done by Guinean botanists remotely supervised from Kew who have been trained during the project.  At the start three highly experienced Cameroonian scientists played major roles in both the training and the survey work, working with six Kew staff.

Fifteen young Guinean botanists received training in basic plant collection and vegetation mapping techniques in 2006-2011 and two Guinean botanists trained at the Kew Herbarium.

Nursery propagation and seed-banking of threatened Simandou species has been very productive on site.  'Difficult' species have been sent to Kew so that protocols can be developed in micropropagation, nursery techniques and seedbanking.

Project partners and collaborators

CameroonNational Herbarium of Cameroon
Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES)
Guinea (Conakry)

The Gamal Abdel Nasser University of Conakry
Centre Forestière, Nzerekore
Rio Tinto Iron Ore

Project funders

UKRio Tinto London
Guinea (Conakry)

Rio Tinto Iron Ore